Head of research: Beatrice Beck Schimmer, MD

Current projects:

1) Carbon-coated nano magnets: the in-vivo life sycle.
Project supported by the Schweizerischen Nationalfonds NFP64: Chancen und Risiken von Nanomaterialien.
SNSF 406440-131268

Abstract: Magnetic carbon coated nanoparticles are ultra-strong metal particles. Their high specific surface area allows reliable large-quantity linking of functional groups such as antibodies or chelators. Through this functionalization the nanomagnets specifically bind toxins or metals in the blood, which are successfully eliminated with the help of a magnet. Chances and risks of promising future applications with such nanoparticles were evaluated.

Chances: First in vitro experiments were performed with antibody-coated nanomagnets to see if the according antigens bind to the particles, followed by magnet-induced extraction out of the blood.  Furthermore, with the design of an extracorporeal blood purification system the possibility of targeting molecule isolation in a detoxification procedure such as drug overdose or misbalance in inflammatory mediators was addressed. We found that not only in vitro, but also in vivo, the newly designed blood purification system was highly efficient, successfully eliminating small or large molecules.

Risks: A careful evaluation was performed assessing possible interactions of magnetic nanoparticles with blood (plasma and cells). Coagulation was not impaired in a clinically relevant way. Also, no inflammatory reactions or toxicity in the blood were found.

Therefore, these finding lay the ground to bringing this promising new technology to clinical application.

2) Carbon-coated nano magnets: further possibilities.
Project supported by the Schweizerischen Nationalfonds NFP64: Chancen und Risiken von Nanomaterialien.
SNSF 406440-131268,  (Extension)

With the promising results of the blood purification system, we wondered if magnetic nanoparticles could not only target small or large molecules, but also cells. Elimination of tumor cells circulating in the blood would be a clinically relevant goal. Also, during severe systemic inflammatory processes targeted extraction of immune cells would be appreciated. We are currently focusing on such experimental approaches, testing blood cell elimination in vitro.